Don’t tell Tim Apple, but I bought a Pixel 7. This is my first Android phone.1 I’ve always wanted to have one lying around. It’d offer a peek to what I am missing on the outside of walled Apple orchard. I could have a better pulse on the Android and Google world. Curiosity drove this desire. So with an absurdly good trade-in offer, I decided to let my beloved iPhone Xs Max go to the great Best Buy in the sky.2 Really, I sacrificed it for science.
Then phone showed up yesterday. I set it up fresh. Then I asked myself, “what the heck am I going to do with this thing?”
I spent the night and morning digging into my ideas as to why I even bought the Pixel. Now that it’s here, it’s time to start experimenting and finding where it fits in my life.
The anchor of bringing an Android flagship into my personal technology fleet was utility.
When I watch the Made by Google events and Google I/O, there are usually a few features that leave me gobsmacked in one way or another. Google shows off software I want in my life. The prime example is live transcription. You see the demos on stage or in reviews and you can’t help but think there’s some sort of illusion happening before your eyes. My brain leaps right to interviews and my podcasts.
I tested this feature out just this morning by playing a few minutes of Ben Thompson’s interview with Mark Zukerberg and Satya Nadella about partnering in the Metaverse. The transcription is almost realtime. With decent grammar.3 When Google releases the update to their recorder app to add speaker labels, I plan to use this to make passable transcripts of Chapter Select and The Max Frequency Podcast. It may not be that perfect transcription, but the out-of-the-box accuracy and ease of use makes offering this type of resource affordable to me. It is magic.
Like I just talked about with Casey Liss as I prepared for becoming a parent, the best camera is the one you have on you. That’s a lesson I learned in photojournalism at UCF (one of many). I upgraded to the iPhone 14 Pro Max this year so I could have the best iPhone camera in time for my daughter’s arrival. We also bought a big ol’ fancy camera lens. This trade-in deal seemed like the perfect opportunity to add the legendary Pixel camera to my camera tool belt.
For years, I’ve hear MKBHD talk about Google’s punchy colors and I’ve seen the camera comparisons. Each manufacturer has their own spin on camera priorities and computational photography. I finally get to have two of the major players on deck.
I may be ride or die with Apple, but I do my best to stay on top of the major ongoings with Samsung, Google, and interesting Android devices. Generally, that involves watching MKBHD videos to keep a steady pulse. Keeping this eye on “the other side” has helped me see where Apple falls short and stays ahead. More so, the hardware and software is fascinating. Foldables only exist in Android Land for now. There are under glass fingerprint sensors, super fast charing options, and wild camera arrays. Experimentation is still in full swing over the walls. While Google’s flagship is hardly full-fledged experimentation compared to the rest of the market, the Pixel 7 feels that way to me as a near-decade long iPhone user.
So right now, my plan for the Pixel is two-fold: 1) use it as a tool for podcasting and recording and 2) have a better understanding of the Google and Android ecosystem. I’m looking at the Pixel with a laser focus. What can I do here to enhance my work? I don’t need Twitter or messaging or fitness on my Pixel. It won’t grow in those areas of my walled orchard. But I can use it to prune distractions in production. I can enrich what I make. The Pixel isn’t here to disrupt my workflow, but strengthen it. We’ll see how this experiment pans out.
And now for some quick, initial impressions of the Pixel 7 experience.
- I prefer the iPhone 14 Pro Max always-on display. I like that colors and the widgets. If Apple was late to the always-on game so they could achieve this vision, I’m glad they waited.
- The fingerprint is scanner is bright. It’s slightly slower than what I am use to (aka Touch ID), but them’s the breaks with optical sensors. Still a neat feature.
- Face unlock, not so much. With no depth sensors, it’s physically not as secure as my fingerprint or Face ID. Having dual biometric access is an odd balance. I just default to the fingerprint. Sometimes the face works first. I may just disable Face Unlock.
- The camera is snappy. There are these helpful little videos when you enter a new spot of the UI. HDR10 limited is limited to 30 fps.
- Apple Music is nice to have, but weird to have a slice of Apple UI within the confines of Android. Is there an Apple TV app?
- This phone is slippery. As MKBHD would say, it’s a glass sandwich. I have to buy a case.
- The gestures are not natural and I’m not sure if that’s four years of iOS gestures or just out of touch design. If you even graze the left side of the screen, it reacts like a Back button. If I try to swipe open the lefthand panel in Discord, it backs out of the app. I turned the sensitivity of this feature as low as it would go. It will certainly take some getting used to.
- Why are the Chrome controls up top? I don’t want to stretch to the upper right corner to access my tabs. Please. Help.
1. It can’t make phone calls, so is my Pixel 7 even a “phone?” ⏎
2. The Xs Max was/is valued around $185~, but the Pixel 7 promotions brought that up to $475. Best Buy also threw in a $100 gift card. After tax, the Pixel 7 cost me $60~, which seemed worth the price of my curiosity. ⏎